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Paresthesia (paraesthesia in British English) is a sensation of tingling, pricking, or numbness of the skinwith no apparent physical cause, more generally known as the feeling of pins and needles.
Most people have felt the sensation of an extremity, "falling asleep". This lack of sensation is caused by a temporary impedence of blood flow to the extremity which results in nerve cells starving for oxygenand glucose. Additionally, the impedence of blood flow is usually due to pressure on the limb which in turn compresses the nerve cells, making transmission of neural impulses more difficult. Transient paresthesia is the familiar sensation of "pins and needles" felt when oxygen and glucose-rich blood return to the nerve cells which in turn fire at an accelerated rate until they establish their regular transmission rate.
Chronic paresthesia indicates a problem with the functioning of nerve cells, or neurons. This malfunction, which is especially common in older individuals, is often the result of poor circulationin the limbs, or may be caused by atherosclerosis—the build up of plaque on arterywalls. Without a proper supply of bloodand nutrients, nerve cells can no longer adequately send signals to the brain. Because of this, paresthesia is also a symptom of vitamindeficiency and malnutrition, as well as metabolicdisorders like diabetesand hypothyroidism.
Irritation to the nerve can also come from inflammationto the surrounding tissue. Joint conditions such as rheumatoid arthritisand carpal tunnel syndromeare common sources of paresthesia.
Another cause of paresthesia, however, may be direct damage to the nerves themselves, or neuropathy, which can stem from injury or infection, or which may be indicative of a current neurological disorder. Chronic paresthesia can sometimes be symptomatic of serious conditions, such as a transient ischemic attack, a brain tumor, motor neurone disease, or autoimmune disorderslike multiple sclerosisor lupus erythematosus. A diagnostic evaluation by a doctor is necessary to rule these out.
Paresthesiae of the mouth, hands and feet are common, transient symptoms of the related conditions of hyperventilation syndromeand panic attacks.
Other known causes of paresthesia:
- Anticonvulsantdrugssuch as topiramate, sulthiame, and acetazolamide
- Heavy metals
- Radiation poisoning
- Withdrawal from certain SSRIs, such as Paroxetine
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Paresthesia Information Page
Categories: Neurology| Symptoms
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paresthesia Wikipedia article Paresthesia.